Wednesday, 22 June 2005
Distance 27 km
Duration 5 hours 55 minutes
Ascent 383 m, descent 346 m
Map 48 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
Topo-guide (ref. 321) Traversée du Périgord
The morning was foggy after the rain. We ate our gruel in the hotel room before marching off on the first part of our new expedition.
We crossed the stone footbridge and had coffee, pains aux raisins and croissants sitting on yellow plastic chairs on the quay beside the Vézère. Morning mist hung low on the hills that we were about to climb.
The GR461 started just across the street and we bounded up the lanes of old Terrasson, the defensive wall of which was still standing in parts.
Except for a couple of cars and a television aerial or two, there was nothing that would have surprised an inhabitant of 500 years ago. Half the streets were staircases, the houses were at all angles and there were tiny vegetable plots in odd corners.
We emerged through the upper portal and into the open countryside. I was going well. It was the first day that I had walked without pain since we started three and a half weeks earlier. The GR was a lovely sequence of lanes, paths and tiny roads.
We passed a young walnut plantation and a couple of villages and then entered a wood. The wheel track was well-marked until we came to a fork, where we searched in vain for a mark and ended up taking the wrong way. But we were not really lost. We came to a truffle farm and saw traffic zipping along on the other side of the stream.
Soon we arrived at the village of Coly and sank into chairs at a nice-looking bar shaded by a vine with a trunk like an oak. However the coffee there was very nasty, served in streaky cups without saucers, and the odious smell of boiled meat poured out onto us from a kitchen exhaust fan.
We did not linger, but took the little road to Saint-Amand-de-Coly. There were patches of shade cast by chestnut trees, but it was hot work. Expecting a nondescript hamlet on a par with Coly, we were astonished when we came round a bend and saw the gigantic abbey with its porch almost as tall as itself.
We had lunch on the stairs leading up to the porch, then climbed up to enter the coolness of the building. Inside, the stone floor continued to slope upwards and there was another shallow flight of stairs before the altar, the whole surmounted by the great barrel vault far above.
Apparently in the season the village is a mass of tourists, but today everything was closed, so instead of having an icecream, we had to content ourselves with a few handfuls of cherries that we found soon after we set off again.
We went through forests and farms until we came to the road to Montignac. From there the GR climbed in the direction of Lascaux caves, which we had no wish to visit as we had done it a couple of years before, so we took to the bitumen and marched the last four kilometres into the town, which was slightly downhill but hot all the same.
At the place where the road divided to go to the two bridges, we went left and came to an icecream shop, where we sat down to celebrate our arrival. It had been an easy day’s walking but quite enough in the blazing heat.
The camping ground was down beside the river and was well occupied.
We found a large plot with a couple of shade trees, but moved to a smaller one when a huge Dutch caravan arrived and could not fit into any of the other plots. Before we could get the tent pegs in, we had to pour water on the parched ground.
As soon as the sun set behind the low ridge, we strolled back to town. From the bridge we could see several restaurants along the river bank, strung with welcoming lights. We hurried down and got a table right next to the water where a family of ducks was pottering about on the grass and banana trees stood like stage props.
Keith had the best pizza he had ever eaten and I had a piece of steak with salad. It must be the strenuous life-style that makes us fancy red meat so much whilst in France.